Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ukraine: Tug of Pipeline

(This post has been corrected and combined with two other posts, to create the more complete Ukraine: The Great Game, v2.0. I am leaving it here so that links and references stand.)

Visualize tug-of-pipeline, with a whole crowd of creatures on the west, a pipeline, and a bear on the east, and all of it taking place on Ukrainian soil.

Ukraine was the origin of the Soviet national gas industry in the 1920s. Ukraine's fossil fuel economy has grown hugely since then, and Ukraine into a nexus of pipelines and a home to refineries and gas storage facilities. The pipelines cross the country, carrying fuel from east to west.

From Ukraine vs Russia: Tales of pipelines and dependence, author Jerome a Paris. Full figure at link.

Russia, because of this, which is huge, and because of its port on the Black Sea and its agricultural productivity, not unnaturally wants to control Ukraine. The European Union, fearing dependence on Russian gas supplies, not unnaturally wants to control Ukraine. There are some fine points, which Jerome a Paris (presumably a pseudonym) spell out in Ukraine vs Russia: Tales of pipelines and dependence.

But the other point, which is not at all fine, is that Russia has twice forced genocidal famines in Ukraine, first in 1921-2 under Lenin and again in 1932-3 under Stalin. The Ukrainian people, because of this, and because of a longer history of oppression, for perfectly obvious reasons hate Russia. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych apparently sold out to Russia, and party because of this Yanukovych is now a hunted man.

And, where does Russia fit in? It appears that stories of emergent fascism in Ukraine are Russian disinformation (in this connection, it is perhaps useful to remember that Vladimir Putin was for many years a KGB officer.) There is a fascist faction in Ukraine but, so far, it is not in charge. When asking about fascism, however, I ask where it is that the government has chosen a group to oppress, and put the full power of the state behind that oppression. And that, of course, is Russia, with it tormenting of gays.

And yet the geopolitics will not be denied. Europe wants gas. Russia has gas. Ukraine is in the middle. It is hard for this bird to see much hope of a positive outcome for Ukraine in this.


sglover said...

I've been in Ukraine three times, most recently Odessa, Sevastopol, and Kiev about 18 months ago.

It is **extremely** arguable that Yanukovych "sold out to Russia". Of course, Putin prefers him to the Maidan demonstrators. But are you trying to say that the EU was offering a serious alternative to the financial aid that Moscow advanced. The EU trade deal that Yanukovych turned down, the immediate cause of the demonstrations in Kiev, would almost certainly have been extremely disadvantageous to the Ukrainian economy.

I think the EU (and the US, to a lesser extent) has verged on gross irresponsibility throughout this crisis. For all their nebulous talk about a "European future" for Ukraine, they will NEVER admit it to the EU, and never allow Ukrainians (other than the very highly educated) to work in the west.

Yanukovych is a corrupt provincial, but that distinguishes him from the rest of the Ukrainian political class not at all. (Doesn't exactly make him odd by American standards, either.) And he **was** elected through a process that was broadly acknowledged to be free and fair. Tossing him out through mob action isn't going to do much for the political health of Ukraine. And if all this does result in the fissure of Ukraine, the proud owners of Galicia/Ruthenia/Greater Lviv are going to become extremely familiar with the wisdom of the phrase, "Be careful what you wish for".

Raven Onthill said...

I agree the IMF plan for Ukraine is awful. But what would a Ukrainian future in the Russian sphere of influence be like? Rather, I expect, like the old Eastern block. That's if Russia doesn't perpetrate a third Ukrainian genocide.

This is not what we tore down the walls for.

As to Yanukovych, if he is not a Russian tool, why is Russia working to put him back in power?